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Hit-and-miss culinary experiments

13th Jun 2015


M Block, GK-1, New Delhi

Ph: 99711 72933

Meal for two: Rs.2,000

(Top) Interiors of Gastronomica; (Bottom) Ratatouille with quinoa polenta.

"Everything in here has a twist," the restaurant manager told us, pointing to the cutlery, the mismatched furniture and the twists in the menu itself. It soon became a game, this race to spot

everything that was new, or "twisted" around us. The water glasses were cut in an oblong trans-section. The plates looked like someone had bitten off the rim neatly from the top and bottom. Table napkins became the sails for a miniature wooden boat. Three bottle openers mimicked people on the main wall of the restaurant, their tiny knife hands and corkscrew heads frozen in action while presumably, jumping up and down. Yet, despite all its "innovations" Gastronomica will look like your average Delhi lounge/restaurant/café/bar place, its kitsch mostly second-hand inspiration.

The menu was a choice representation of this desire to innovate and be different, at first. The classic quinoa salad had been made into a Quinoa Bhel (Rs 299). The usual hara bhara kebab has bits of papad attached on for extra crumbs. Does it work? Since, all of them are individual

localised experiments, there are hits and misses. (The quinoa bhel, though a wonderful idea on paper, is sad, since it has been prohibited all the crunch that makes it unhealthy, and well, fun.) However, the meal came to life with the wonderful idea of Wasabi Chicken Tikka

(Rs 399), a version of the malai tikka with wasabi dressing on top, served with wasabi mayonnaise. The wasabi hits the missing notes in a plain malai tikka; this is an unexpectedly happy marriage. The Tandoori Quail (Rs 399) or bater, might not be much of a twist since it was last century's favourite bird to eat in Punjab, but is enjoyable nonetheless.

A note for vegetarians here: it is going to be a very different experience for you. What the appetisers threatened, the main course delivered. No film, let alone a blockbuster would be inspired from the insipid ratatouille served in this place, the polenta not flavoured, the dish being unseasoned to the point that my vegetarian partner picked at the diced zucchini to complete her meal. The Pink Salmon Fillet fared much better (Rs 899), the skin crisp, even though the fillet seemed slightly uncooked towards the end. The Tenderloin Medallions (Rs 529), balanced on halved potatoes, and topped with some string beans was a definite miss for us, the meat smelly and chewy. If you are visiting this place, you would do good to stick to basic chicken dishes, and some of the regular pasta and pizza dishes that served us much better. What was the

innovation for the main courses you ask? The most stark one was that it was served in a shovel. If only we could say that in these post-hipster times that is the strangest serving dish we have seen. The dessert could, perhaps, be called the principal redeemer of this hit-and-miss meal. Both the mango phirni and chocolate lava cake, served on the side with ice cream gave us not much to complain about.

While we think this joint has its heart in the right place, it just needs some more time before we can call it our go-to place as far as avant-garde food is concerned.

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